UNDERSTANDING COAL AND COAL RESERVES
Coal is a combustible black sedimentary rock. Carbon is the main constituent of coal. However, it may also contain varying amounts of other elements such as hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.
Formation of Coal
Coal forms through a lengthy process. Generally, exposing dead plant matter, buried beneath the ground in wetland conditions, to geological forces of heat and pressure converts moist, low-carbon peat to coal. As a result, it turns into an energy- and carbon-denser sedimentary rock with the passage of time. The formation of coal takes hundreds of millions of years.
Coal reserves are substantial amounts of coal that are assumed to exist with a high degree of certainty. It is based on geological surveys and engineering studies. For instance, As of 2016, India had 107,727 million tonnes of known coal reserves. It ranks fifth in the world. India accounts for nearly 9% of total world coal reserves.
Various types of coal
- Peat is the first stage of coal formation.
- Lignite, also known as brown coal. It is the lowest rank of coal because of its lowest heat content. It is the most hazardous to one’s health. We almost exclusively use it to generate electricity.
- Sub-bituminous coal has qualities that fall between lignite and bituminous coal. Steam-electric power generators use it as a fuel for generation of electricity.
- Bituminous coal is a solid sedimentary rock that is usually black, but can sometimes be dark brown. It has distinct bands of bright and dull stuff. Coke production uses Bituminous coal as fuel. In the UK, people know it as steam coal. It was once used to generate steam in steam locomotives and ships.
- For home and commercial space heating, the use of, the hardest, glossiest black coal, anthracite, is very popular.
- Graphite is difficult to ignite and is not often utilised as a fuel; it is most commonly employed in the manufacture of pencils.
THE TOP FIVE INDIAN STATES WITH MOST COAL RESERVES
It is the first with 83.15 billion tonnes. Jharkhand, tops the list of India’s coal reserves and output, accounting for more than 26% of the country’s total. Jharia, Bokaro, Auranga, Giridih, Dhanbad, Ramgarh, Karanpur, and Hutar are the state’s principal coal-mining centers. The majority of these coal fields are concentrated in a narrow band running east-west. The Jharia coalfield, located south of Dhanbad, is India’s oldest and wealthiest coalfield, containing the best bituminous coal.
The state of ODISHA ranks second in terms of coal reserves. It has more than 24% of the country’s total reserves as well as 15% of the country’s total coal production. The Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, and Sundargarh districts have the majority of the state’s coal reserves. Talcher coalfield, Odisha’s largest coalfield, is around 500 square kilometers in size (km2). Odisha’s estimated coal reserves are over 79.30 billion tonnes.
CHHATTISGARH owns around 17% of the country’s coal reserves and is the third-largest in terms of reserves. Although the Hasdeo-Arand coalfield, with an area of 1,878km2, is the largest in Chhattisgarh, a substantial section of it is wooded. In the Hasdeo river valley, the second-largest Korba coalfield covers 530km2. Chirmiri, Johilla, and Jhimli are three other large coalfields in Chhattisgarh. There are more than 57 billion tonnes of coal reserves in the state.
WEST BENGAL has a total of 31.67 billion tonnes. The eastern state of West Bengal is fourth on the list, with around 11% of India’s total coal reserves. The Raniganj coalfield, which spans over 185km2 in the Bardhman and Birbhum districts, is West Bengal’s most major reserve and mining field. Because the reserves contain 50-65 percent carbon, the coal quality is among the greatest in the country. Darjeeling, Bardhman, Jalpaiguri, Bankura, and Puruliya are the districts that cover West Bengal’s coal reserves.
MADHYA PRADESH has a total of 27.99 billion tonnes of coal. The central state of Madhya Pradesh is India’s fifth-largest coal-bearing state, with coal resources accounting for around 8% of the country’s total. Singrauli, Satpura, Muhpani, Sohagpur, and Pench Kanhan are the state’s primary coal sources, with Singrauli being the state’s largest coalfield. Its primary purpose is to supply coal to two thermal power units in Singrauli and Obra. Madhya Pradesh has a total coal reserve of 27.99 billion tonnes.
THE ISSUE OF COAL RESERVE SHORTAGE IN INDIA:
The tightening of India’s coal supply is causing a power shortage as a result it threatens to halt the world’s fastest-growing major economy. At the end of last month, coal-fired power plants had an average of four days’ worth of fuel on hand, the lowest level in years and down from 13 days at the start of August. More than half of the plants are on high alert in case of a power loss.
Effect on electricity
Spot power rates have risen since coal is used to generate over 70% of energy, but supplies of the fuel are being diverted away from critical clients such as aluminum smelters and steel mills. India, like China, is facing two major challenges. Firstly, the rising electricity
demands, as industrial activity picks up after epidemic restrictions were eased. And secondly, a drop in domestic coal production. Around three-quarters of the country’s demand is met locally, but it has now become a controversial issue.
According to government data, coal inventories at Indian power plants plummeted to roughly 8.1 million tonnes at the end of September. In September, the average spot electricity price at the Indian Energy Exchange Ltd. increased by more than 63 percent to 4.4 rupees ($0.06) per kilowatt-hour. In the meantime, even with a massive rise in renewables and the country’s top billionaires’ hurry to add green assets, the energy crisis serves as a reminder of the critical role coal plays in India’s economy.
India expects that its demand for fuel will rise tremendously in the upcoming years. India, one of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases, has yet to declare a goal to achieve carbon neutrality. According to India’s coal secretary, Anil Kumar Jain, supplies to power plants are currently short by 60,000 to 80,000 tonnes per day as a result of the persistent rains that have soaked coal pits. Dhanbad, a major coal-mining center in the east of the country, saw unusually heavy rains last month.
WHAT DOES INDIA’S COAL MARKET CRISIS MEAN FOR THE WORLD’S COAL MARKETS?
India is the world’s second-largest coal importer, consumer, and producer, with the fourth-largest reserves. Indonesia, Australia, and South Africa are the largest sources of imports. Due to supply constraints and increasing demand from China and abroad, CRISIL, a unit of rating agency S&P, anticipates Australian and Indonesian thermal coal prices to rise during the balance of this fiscal year. India’s average weekly coal imports fell by more than 30% from the first seven months of the year to slightly under 3 million tonnes between August through late September, when global coal prices rebounded over 40% to all-time highs.